POLITICS

Pentagon announces naval exercise in Middle East

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Politics,World,Sara A. Carter

The United States will join 20 other nations in a joint minesweeping exercise in the waters of the Middle East in late September, as tensions in the region continue to simmer.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. was sending another aircraft carrier to the Middle East several months early, ensuring that two carrier battle groups would be in the area.

A Defense Department official with knowledge of the ongoing situation said, "Our goal is to promote regional security while keeping our eyes wide-open to threats wherever they may originate in that part of the world."

U.S. Central Command said the exercise would focused on a hypothetical threat that terrorist groups would use mines in strategic international waterways in the Middle East. The waterways include "the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, although exercise activities will not extend into the Strait of Hormuz," CENTCOM officials said.

Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of CENTCOM, said the exercise "represents the extensive cooperation we enjoy with our international partners -- both in and outside the region."

James Jay Carafano, a senior defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said the administration is playing a very dangerous game in the region and pushing the U.S. into a confrontation with Iran.

"It reflects the massive failure and the massive incongruity of Obama's policy toward Iran," said Carafano. He added that Obama has no real choice at this point but to reassure allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Dubai, that the U.S. is standing by them.

"On the one hand, you got to do that," Carafano said. "On the other hand, Obama looks weak when the Iranians insult the U.S. and threaten us in front of the world and there is really little [Obama] is willing to do about it. We're sending mixed signals, and it could lead to an accidental conflict. "

scarter@washingtonexaminer.com

Sara A. Carter is The Washington Examiner's national security correspondent. She can be reached at scarter@washingtonexaminer.com.

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